3 AQAP fighters reported killed in US drone strike

The US reportedly killed three al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula fighters today in a province in central Yemen where the jihadist group is battling Shia Houthi rebels who have advanced southward after taking control of the capital of Sana’a last month.

The remotely piloted Predators or Reapers killed the three fighters in a strike in the Manasseh area near the city of Rada’a in Baydah province, Reuters reported. The strike targeted Ansar al Sharia, AQAP’s political front in Yemen. The US State Department described Ansar al Sharia as an “alias” of AQAP in its designation of the former group in 2012.

It is unclear if any senior al Qaeda or Ansar al Sharia leaders were killed in the US drone strike. AQAP has not announced the death of any of its senior leaders or operatives.

The Manasseh area in Baydah is a known haven for AQAP fighters and leaders. The US has launched three other airstrikes in Manasseh since late December 2012. The last such attack took place on Aug. 30, 2013. The US killed Kaid al Dhabab and two fighters in a strike on a vehicle in that airstrike. Kaid served as the group’s emir for Baydah.

Today’s strike is the first since Oct. 15. Four AQAP operatives, including Mahdi Badas, the group’s emir for Shabwa, were reported to have been killed in a strike that targeted a vehicle in the southern province of Shabwa.

The US has launched four drone strikes in Yemen since Shia Houthi rebels, which are backed by Iran and are enemies of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, took control of the capital of Sana’a on Sept. 22. The Houthis have since advanced southward and taken control of the port city of Hodeidah and the central Yemeni city of Dhamar. The Houthi rebels also seized areas outside of Radaa in Baydah before halting their advance.

AQAP and the Houthis have since been battling outside of Radaa and elsewhere in Yemen. AQAP has positioned itself as the defenders of Sunnis in Yemen as the government and military have collapsed in the face of the Houthi advance.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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